Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: eternal value

God wants you to be a conqueror

Let’s be honest.  The Christian life is hard, and sometimes we wonder if following God is really worth it.  How much does it matter that we abide by God’s principles as we navigate our days, months, and years?  There’s got to be a larger reason for choosing to follow God, something more than just being “a good little Christian girl” or “a good little Christian boy”, right?

As we take a look at the last chapters of God’s final book of the Bible, we’re finding out that God DOES INDEED have more – much more – in store for those who follow Him.

Revelation 21:6-7
…I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.

Inheritance is conditional – it is based upon the choices a person makes in the life they live after they have accepted Christ’s free gift of eternal life.  Knowing this, the next question we need to answer is this:

Since a conqueror is the one who inherits, who are the Christians that God refers to as “the one who conquers”?

The Greek word for conquer is nikao.  In ancient Greece, it was a verb that meant to overcome or overpower; to conquer or triumph.  In legal terms, it meant “to win one’s case”.  The verb was used to describe winners of athletic contests.  It was also used in reference to the victorious ruling Caesars.  When used in its noun-form, the word nike means victory.  It was also the name of a Greek goddess, who was often represented in art as a symbol of personal superiority.  In our modern days, not only is “Nike” a clothing and shoe brand, but the company’s marketed identity purposely conveys an overcoming, victorious attitude.

So, to be a conqueror is to be victorious over any task, obstacle, or arena you are in…and thus have the right to claim the victor’s spoils.  This definition fits in perfectly with what we have learned about a believer’s potential inheritance in the New Jerusalem.  Since inheritance is conditional, those that obtain it are those who have lived a victorious life in Christ.

Paul used similar language as he encouraged the believers at Corinth.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way to win the prize.  Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything.  They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we
[do it to receive] an imperishable crown.

Paul says we should be striving for a crown that lasts forever…and in Revelation 21:7, we are told what the prize is for the one who conquers – it is the right to inherit in the New Jerusalem.

Making wise choices now, living victoriously for Christ through whatever circumstances we face, overcoming the obstacles that are trying to pry us away from our relationship with God…these are the actions that will make us – by God’s definition – one who conquers.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The Christian life, in 3 steps. Seriously. (part 2)

The author of Hebrews has boiled down the Christian life into three basic steps.  He wrote this to believers regarding the first step:

Hebrews 10:22
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

If we are going to live the way we were created to live, then we must know life’s author.  Drawing near, spending time one-on-one with God, is the only way to do that.

The second step can only happen after we take the first step.  But if we do draw near, then the next step will be both normal and natural.

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since He who promised is faithful.

What is your anchor when life goes sideways?
What do you hold on to when an unwanted situation becomes the norm?

We’ll say that “God is my rock”, but we often rely on other tempting options to get away and regain our footing: the internet, TV, and our phones all offer mild escapes… before we get to the often condemned but equally tempting ones like alcohol, drugs, and inappropriate relationships. 

When life doesn’t go like we wanted it to, or we find it hard to follow Jesus, we need to hold on to the confession of our hope.  What that means is we anchor ourselves on the truth that we know.  We remind ourselves that He has promised what we do with His Greater Message in this life is the most important thing for us.  If God is faithful (and He is), then we can confidently expect that our choices now will have eternal significance – no matter what life throws at us.

God is faithful. 

Do we trust that statement?
Do our action show that we trust that statement? 

If Yes – then hold on, without wavering
If No – then go back to step 1 and draw near to God, so that you can know Him to the point you can trust His faithfulness.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Resolutions about maturity

It’s that time of year again…time to make resolutions to be better at something.  We know the big ones – get in shape, eat better, learn a new skill – and we know that we should do these things and they have lasting, positive benefits to our lives.  But why is it, that by sometime in February, we’ve given up on working towards them? 

When we’re honest – we recognize that we give up on these resolutions because we don’t value the end product highly enough.  We aren’t diligent in pursuing it, and we become lazy.  This doesn’t mean that we do not understand or fully trust the benefits of exercise, a good diet, or learning something new…it just shows that we value them less than other competing priorities in our lives.

Did you know that the same thing happens to us spiritually?  Other things crowd into our lives and we sometimes don’t value our growth as a Christ-follower or our relationship with God like we should.  We can become spiritually lazy.  It’s not a new problem for Christians, either.

After starting a discussion of Christ’s superiority as our high priest and reviewing some of the great benefits available to a believer who partners with Jesus, the author pauses to say:

Hebrews 5:11-14
We have a great deal to say about this, and it’s difficult to explain, since you have become slow to understand.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation.  You need milk, not solid food.  Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature – for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

Looking at this passage, it is clear that this letter was written to people who have already accepted Christ as the substitutionary payment for their sins.  The solid food is the teaching that deals with righteousness, or right-living, before God.  Because these “big babies” haven’t progressed to solid food, they cannot grasp the implications of the Greater Message of future partnership with the Greater Messenger.

Hebrews 6:1
Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity

If you could travel into a mother’s womb and speak with the prenatal child, I’m sure he would be very confused as to why he was growing arms and legs and a mouth.  He has no real, tangible need for them so long as he remains in the womb.  However, we would desperately explain that while he sees little use for them in his present stage in life, they will become vitally important for the way he interacts with the world of his next stage of life.

The entire New Testament, except for John’s Gospel, speaks to us like we are the child still in the womb.  The vast majority of the New Testament is written to believers and contains encouragement to put in the effort now to grow towards maturity…because the level of maturity we develop here and now will directly impact how we interact with the world of our next stage of life.

Hebrews 6:11-12
Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, so that you won’t become lazy, but imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.

Keep at it.  Keep going towards maturity.  Not everyone does, but those who trust Jesus’ offer of partnership and patiently wait for it, they will obtain it.

That’s a resolution worth keeping, one with results that echo into eternity.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How to be rich and live richly

We discovered last time that we’re rich.  Richly rich.  That if we make over $32,400 per year ($15.59/hour)…we’re in the top 1% of the world.  But we also found out that no matter what our income amounts to, we shouldn’t feel guilty that we have wealth, because God richly provides us with all things to enjoy

God gives good gifts, and gifts are given for the enjoyment of the one receiving it.  Maybe someone got a better gift than you, and it doesn’t seem fair…however, our jealousy tends to evaporate once we expand our comparison circle to include the rest of the world.

So now that we know we’re rich, what do we do?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught:

Matthew 6:19-21
Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

A few observations:
·        Jesus gave no indication that being wealthy in this life (or the next) is wrong.
·        What is considered valuable now is not going to be what is considered valuable in the next life.
·        How we obtain wealth in this life is not how we store up treasures for the next life.

During his ministry, Jesus met many rich folks who didn’t handle their wealth very well in light of eternity.  A few examples include the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22), also the Pharisees and their scribes (Luke 5:29-31).  The rich were also featured in Jesus’ parables as bad examples of how to live life in the present age (Luke 12:13-21, Luke 16:19-31, and Luke 18:9-14).

So, what should us rich 1%ers do?  What does God consider the right way to handle the wealth He’s given us?

Paul addressed that topic in his instructions to Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:17-19
Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. 

Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.

Being rich in the age to come means being other-focused in the present age.  Whether we make $15,000 a year or $1,500,000 a year – what we do with what God has given us will determine the foundation of our lives in the next life.

That thought just blows me away, so dwell on it for just a moment with me.  Everything in this life is building *only* the foundation for our lives in eternity.  What we build, the work we do, the experiences we will have in the next life…are going to be based upon the choices we make in the present age.

My mentor, Joe, would tell me often “This life is just boot camp for the next.”  C.S. Lewis wrote that our present lives are simply the cover and the title page…when we enter Eternity future, we will begin Chapter 1 of the Great Story that never ends, where each chapter is better than the one before.

Partnering with God now affects how we can partner with God in Eternity.  We should absolutely enjoy the gifts God has given us, but don’t enjoy them selfishly.  Do goodBe rich in good worksBe generousBe willing to share.

Lay a good foundation for the age to come.  Find and take hold of life that is real.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How to make an eternal investment in yourself

Once you’re in God’s family, you find there are a lot of words thrown around that everyone just seems to “know” what they mean.  At least it appears that way, as often as you hear Christians use words like faith, justification, hallelujah, and salvation.

One of those terms is godliness.  Other than being told as children that is was close to cleanliness, we make the general assumption that godliness means some sort of “god-like-ness”, where we imitate a certain aspect of God as we meet Him in the Bible.  Honest, though…that definition still feels a little vague, doesn’t it?

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul uses the word godliness eight times in 113 verses.  That’s a pace of about one for every 14 verses.  By his heavy usage and what he says about it, we can see that Paul considered godliness an important point for Timothy and those under his charge.  Here’s an example:

1 Timothy 4:7-9
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.

So Paul considers godliness something we have to be trained in and something that is beneficial both now and in eternity future.  If that’s the case, then we need to fully understand what the word means!

But recognizing the importance of godliness doesn’t clarify the word’s meaning.  It can still feel a little vague.  A few verses back, Paul validates this feeling:

1 Timothy 3:16
And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great

Right after saying something like this, I would expect Paul to give a definition or explanation of the mystery of godliness…but instead, he jumps straight into a description of Jesus:

1 Timothy 3:16
He was manifested in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
preached among the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

What Paul is getting at here is that if we want to have a “god-like-ness” that is valuable in the present life and in the life to come, then we need to train to have a “Jesus-like-ness”.  Jesus is our best example of how we are made to imitate and live like God designed us to.

So, practically speaking, what are some attributes of Jesus that we can imitate?  I suggest these three:

·        Jesus knew the Scriptures – He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Often, during His teaching, Jesus would reference the Scriptures by saying “It is written” or asking the question “Have you not read?
·        Jesus was totally focused on His part in God’s plan and kingdom – He was on mission, would not be deterred.  In John 6:38, He said “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
·        Jesus knew both the Scriptures and His mission well enough that He could impact the lives of others – He cared for others, met them where they were, and pointed them toward God the Father.

Paul’s message to Timothy was that godliness is something infinitely valuable – and that Timothy could develop a “god-like-ness” by training to be like Jesus.

Will we follow Jesus’ example?  Pursuing a “Jesus-like-ness” will beneficial…for the present life and…for the life to come.  Will we trust God and choose to make the eternal investment in the here and now?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A level playing field

In the ancient world, you knew your place in society.  If you were born into the elite class, you associated with and married in the elite class.  If you were on the outside looking in, you knew that too.  You also knew that you would never be able to join the upper crust.

Slaves in the ancient world were considered property of their masters – either by temporary arrangement (like to pay back some debt) or as a permanent situation.  There were avenues in society for a slave to purchase their freedom or to be released by their masters, but those situations were the exception, not the norm.

The name “Onesimus” was a common slave name since it means “useful”, for that is what the master expected of his slaves – that they would make themselves useful to their owner and the family they served.  When Paul wrote on behalf of Onesimus, he used the slave’s name in a play on words in his petition to Philemon:

Philemon 9-11
I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, appeal to you for my child, who I fathered while in chains – Onesimus.  Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful to both you and me. 

In his prior life, Onesimus was useless.  Whatever had happened between him and his master Philemon was substantial and, as we’ll read later, monetarily expensive.  The situation had to have been significant based upon Onesimus’ choice to leave – either as a runaway slave, or even if he sought Paul out to intercede with Philemon.  After causing significant damage to Philemon and then departing, Onesimus truly had no usefulness to Philemon.  However, after encountering Jesus and trusting Him for eternal life, Onesimus has become eternally useful – both to God and among the family of believers.

Philemon 12-16
I am sending him – a part of myself – back to you.  I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place.  But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 

For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave – as a dearly loved brother.  This is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Oh, the level playing field created by Jesus!

Take a moment to appreciate what took place when Onesimus joined God’s family.  Despite his background, past sins, or current social and economic circumstance, Onesimus is now on equal footing with Philemon AND Paul.

In Christ, the slave is on equal ground with the master and the apostle.  Since Jesus paid the price for all sins that means there is room at cross for everyone.  Paul even said as much in his letter to the church in Colossae:

Colossians 3:11
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

None of the world’s barriers, distinctions, or divisions can prevent someone from joining God’s family.  There is not one of life’s circumstances that can prevent you from trusting Jesus for eternal life.  His offer is available to all.  We only need to trust Him.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Praying to the Lord of the Harvest

Later on in his ministry, Jesus would send heralds ahead of Him to prepare the town for His teaching.  Whether the townspeople accepted the heralds or not, their message was to be the same: The kingdom of God has come near you.  The goal of this preparation work was very similar to John the Baptist’s mission to prepare hearts and minds for when the Messiah would arrive.

Jesus gave these followers specific instructions on how to carry out their portion of His ministry.  We’re going to focus in on just one part of the instructions they received.

Luke 10:1-2 After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go.  He told them: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Harvest time was always a joyous time in Jewish society.  Much work needed to be done, but the benefits were well worth the effort.  Hearts were ready to receive the good news of the Messiah’s arrival, but someone had to get the word out to them.  Those who were willing to spread the message had a significantly large task ahead of them.  In comparison to the task at hand, there were too few workers.

Jesus’ first direction to the 70 was to pray that God would send out even more workers to help spread the good news of Jesus’ arrival, to bring in the abundant harvest of those who would respond and belong to God.  The 70 were going to need all the help they could get!

Jesus’ directions to the 70 heralds was very similar to what He has previously taught to the 12 disciples.  While journeying through Samaria, Jesus spoke to a woman at Jacob’s well and told her that He was the Messiah.  She immediately ran back to her village to tell others.  While she was gone, the disciples urged Jesus to eat…but as the Samaritans made their way toward Jesus and His disciples, He used their arrival as a teaching moment:

John 4:34-35 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them.  “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’?  Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest.”

Our application is to do the same – open our eyes, see their need, and participate in the harvest.  There is more work to be done than we can handle on our own.  So ask God to send out even more workers…the benefits of this work is worth it because this harvest is of eternal value.

Keep Pressing,
Ken